Beneath the turbid Tyrrhenian waters in the Gulf of Naples are the remains of an ancient Roman civilization lost to the seas of time 1,700 years ago…
Think of the ancient city of Baiae as the Las Vegas of Romans times; there were pools, there were casinos and most importantly there was partying.
The once great city was first and foremost a vacation spot for the wealthy and prestigious of Rome. Rich Roman emperors would build luxurious vacation villas along the water in Baiae and spend time eating and drinking to their heart’s contempt.
Notable figures such as; Julius Caesar, Nero, Augustus and Marcus Antonius frequented this vacation spot, and there are even rumors that the beautiful Cleopatra took up lodgement in this city at the time of Julius Caesar’s death in 44 BC.
During the antiquity, Baiae was built on the Cumaean Peninsula, as a large ship port. As convenient as the seaside port was for trading and traveling purposes, the region was and currently still is a volcanically active area. Twenty four craters and one massive supervolcano are found in this volcanically active area, called the Phlegraean Fields.
In approximately the 16th century the entire land of Baiae dropped more than six meters when the underlying magma chamber of this volcanically active region emptied and the grounds dramatically shifted. The result, well the scandalous Italian city was lost to history, vanishing without a trace, only to be rediscovered about 50 years ago.
Today the lost city of Baiae rests at the bottom of the Tyrrhenian Sea on the northwest side of the metropolitan of Naples.
From being a commercial port to a now protected marine area, the ruins are part of the Underwater Archaeological Park of Baiae (or the Parco Archeologico Sommerso di Baia as the Italian locals like to call it). Because of the parks marine protected area status, diving activities within its borders are now regulated, but that wasn’t always the case.
To dive this sunken city is to take a step back in time. Priceless villa’s, fancy tiled mosaics… While most of the buildings have collapsed, divers can still discern some of the different rooms and crumbled foundation of this once luxurious city.
There are eight designated dive sites in Baiae’s Archeological Park. Some of the sites are in close enough proximity to each other that they can be explored on a single dive:
It’s not hard to describe the city of Naples. While the architecture and natural landscapes are breathtaking, the city itself had a very dodgy and grimy feeling to it.
In spite of this, Joey and I spent a glorious two weeks in the Naples region during one of Italy’s hottest times of the year. As you can imagine it was muggy, sweaty and at times unbearably hot to the point that we had a hard time consuming enough water to stay hydrated.
Because of the extreme heat and our lack of air conditioning, we made it a point to get into the water as often as we could. Enter the Archeological Park of Baiae – conveniently located under the sea.
On the day of our dive, I was excited beyond all measure for our adventure into the Gulf of Naples. I had read that exploring the underwater city of Baiae was like exploring a place lost beneath the sea. The rich history and architecture alone would be so satisfying.
We arrived at the dive shop way before our scheduled dive time. After struggling to find parking along the busy street, we carted a couple baskets of gear into the dive shop and began preparing for our dive. Once everyone had their dive kick-knacks, we suited up and loaded our tanks onto a mini tractor to be driven down to the pier.
The walk to the edge of the water was about 300 meters away. When we arrived, our gear was on the tractor waiting to be shuttled onto the boat.
With 12 divers in our group, it was a cozy fit on the zodiac. We enjoyed the cooling ocean breeze as we zoomed to the dive site sitting shoulder to shoulder with our dive companions.
Before I knew it, Joey and I where fins up and rolling into the water. The feeling of complete peace enveloped me as I hit the water and the sound of my breathing echoed in my ears. With my arms folded loosely across my chest, I propelled myself towards the bottom, which wasn’t far considering we were diving in less than 30 feet of water.
As I oriented myself and took a good look at my surroundings, I could already begin to see some of the disintegrating structures covered by seaweed. This once great city was now home to a variety of marine life, it was a real party beneath the waves!
We weaved in and around the brick foundation that seemed to be everywhere on the bottom. Villa? Casino? I let my imagination run wild as I tried to envision what kind of places that had been built in the same spot we were now swimming through.
In no time we arrived at what seemed to be Baiae’s main street and thermal bath complex called “Herclanea”. Here, we had the opportunity to see some delicately crafted marble statues that were perfect reconstructions of the authentic ones, excavated from the same location. Their size was surprising, and just like the foundation, the marine life had consumed these figures.
The last part of our underwater blast into the past took us along a seemingly empty patch of white sand. As our group assembled into a semi-circle, the dive master carefully began fanning away the sediment. At first glance, the sand may have looked like a whole lot of nothing, but as the grainy particles got pushed away, an exquisite mosaic of tiles revealed itself, and the fish started going CRAZY!
I have been around the diving block long enough to see some underwater creatures do weird things, but the way these fish reacted to the exposed marble tiles was bizarre indeed. We went from being surrounded by zero to 20 fish in a heartbeat. They all hovered near the tiles and began trying to rub their scaley bodies along the marble surface, almost in a cat-like manner.
We didn’t get to see the whole tiled floor. After seeing the way the fish rub, bite and play with the exposed marble so aggressively I can understand why the park tries to keep the mosaic sand-covered as much as possible; to preserve their integrity. The small section we did get to see, was so well intact even after all these years.
Scuba diving in the Mediterranean gets a pretty bad rap sometimes, and in a way, I can understand after our dive in the Gulf of Naples. If you’re crazy for coral or big fish, you’d be lucky to find either around here. The fish were few and far between, and the visibility was terrible, but we were diving, and for me, that was the most important thing.
Important Note: For the best visibility, try diving Baia in the winter months (January and February) when there is fewer boat traffic and less algal blooms.
Just because you’re not a diver doesn’t mean you can’t explore the rich history and culture of the ancient city of Baiae.
If you are a history lover at heart, there are several side trips that can be done from Baiae’s underwater archaeological park. Check out the Temple of Mercury, the Temple of Venus, and the Temple of Diana. All three temples are popular Roman ruins that will leave you in utter awe. These ruins are just a hop, skip and jump from the dive sites.
Another amazing spot worth investigating if you have the time and the means are the ruins of Pompeii. Head outside the city, about an hour from Naples, and walk amid the almost perfectly preserved ruins resting at the edge of a large volcano.
We couldn’t be more pleased with our decision to spend the afternoon underwater checking out the ruins of Baiae. It may not have been the best visibility but it was certainly the historical ride of a lifetime. All in all, spending one day diving this area was enough for me, but there’s no way I would have missed the chance to check out Italy’s archaeological scuba scene.
What is the most ancient dive site you have ever submerged yourself in? Where was it? Would you go back?
Writers Note: A heartfelt “grazie” goes out to the crew at Subaia, who provided us with some of the technical maps and diagrams for this article.
If you have all your gear except for tanks and weights, scuba diving in the region of Naples costs around €35.00. For someone without gear, the price is €50.00. Diving in the Archeological Park of Baiae is an additional €5.00 per person.
Don’t forget that in this busy neck of the woods there is little to no free parking. Make sure to budget in an extra €10.00 – €15.00 for your vehicle on dive day.
Scuba classes and night dives are offered but need to be organized in advance, and the prices fluctuate depending on the time of year and dive shop.
The Gulf of Naples is not one of the clearest bodies of water to dive in. There is a high amount of boat traffic and plankton blooms that are a regular occurrence during the summer months. Concerning visibility, the best time to check out this historical diving site is during the winter months when there are less sediment and disturbance in the water. If you prefer water temperature, the water in the Gulf is the warmest during August and September, but be warned during those months the visibility will be less than ideal!
Make sure you have your dive certification on hand because the dive shops in this area record your name, date of birth and dive number both for administrative and safety reasons. Generally speaking, the Naples region has pretty easy diving and the highest certification level required is advanced open water.
For customer satisfaction and safety reasons, some shops typically keep the divemaster: diver ratio at 1:6, so make sure you reserve your place.
Finding a scuba diving company to dive the ancient city of Baiae is relatively easy. There are only a handful of companies that offer guided tours in this underwater archeological site. Subaia Campania Divers is the most popular shop, and they speak English for travelers visiting from out of the country.
Saint Andrews by-the-sea may be small in size, but this summer town packs a pretty big dive punch for scuba divers willing to brave the Bay of Fundy's tides.
Bonaire TEK is an annual October occurrence, where Buddy Dive Resort partners with leaders in the tech diving industry for a week of technical dive demonstrations, equipment trials, presentations, training ins and outs, and camaraderie.
When it comes to getting outside and immersed in nature, Ontario Parks is at the top of the list. Not only do the parks boast magnificent nature, but it's hundreds of thousands of lakes make it a real treat for those who love the water.
Not all things underwater can be seen at first glance - for some, you need to take a closer look. Macro photography is the art of close-up photography on small subjects.
Do you enjoy cold water wreck diving? This dive destination will let you experience the best shipwrecks and scuba diving opportunities on the Canadian east coast.
When diving in Nova Scotia where do you even begin? Do you start in Halifax the province's capital or do you wander beyond to see what the surrounding area has to offer?
Sometimes finding a good dive spot is easier said than done. Shore diving around Saint John, New Brunswick is a testament to how unpredictable the Bay Fundy can be.
No matter what level of diver you are, scuba backroll entries are a fun-filled way to get off the dive boat and get into the water.
Sitting pretty right next to the gulf stream, Jupiter is known as one of Florida's best shark diving location. Drift along in the current as you enjoy an up-close encounter with the ocean's apex predators.
Forget the colorful piñatas and all-you-can-eat tacos, when in Mexico's coastal town of Zihuatanejo, it's all about the scuba diving!
Compact scuba diving finger spool with 150ft of white line and a 4-inch brass double-ended clip
Suunto Vyper Novo wrist scuba diving computer with USB
Bare 5mm evoke women’s full suit designed by Bare’s all-female design team. The suit has technically, innovative celliant infrared technology which increase circulation, body warmth and performance.
The Sony SEL90M28G FE 90 mm f/2.8-22 Macro G OSS Standard-Prime Lens for E (NEX) Cameras.
DUI heavy duty dry suit gloves with yellow liners available in sizes: S, M, L, XL
GoPro dual battery charger conveniently charges two HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black, or HERO camera batteries simultaneously
Bare drysuit trek boots designed for rocky shore entries, boat decks, and boat ladders
Compact underwater scuba diving hand reel with a 150ft of white line on the spool
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod and Bag with adjustable-height legs and rubber feet
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
3PC curved armband glow in the dark slate.
Black Mares Cruise Roller Tauchen bag, perfect for scuba diving and traveling
Black scuba diving turtle fins
Dry glove lock system that accommodates all hand sizes
The Cuticate floating dry box is a waterproof sports container perfect to fit money, ID, cards, keys and more. The case is small, portable, compact, and comes with a lanyard clip hook to take with you as you scuba dive.
Sony Alpha a6500 24MP mirrorless camera with a 16-50mm lens, able to shoot 4K movies.
Ikelite compact ball arm for quick release handle
Diving lens filter kit for GoPro HERO 5/6 which enhances colors for underwater video and photography conditions
Bare Sports 5mm men’s wetsuit made with elastek full-stretch nylon-2 and neoprene celliant liner infrared technology.
Ikelite aluminum digital camera tray with dual handles
Capture amazingly smooth GoPro footage in the air with the GoPro Karma Drone
Suunto SK-8 wrist compass with bungee straps, faster stabilization, and enhanced readability
Ikelite Canon EOS 100D Rebel SL1 underwater camera housing in white
Mini blue scuba diving tank key ring with brass pick tool and o-rings
Bare drysuit drawstring scuba gear bag the perfect alternative for transporting a dry suit to-and-from the dive site
GoPro HERO6 Black Camera
Rechargeable Ikelite NiMH battery pack compatible with Ikelite’s DS125, DS160, and DS161 strobes.
Capture amazingly smooth shake-free video with the GoPro Karma Grip
Dive hands-free with a diving flashlight glove. This torch holder has a universal adjustable wrist strap scuba and is made of superior nylon material, which means it’s durable and comfortable to wear.
The Hydra 5000 WSRU is an all in one photo and dive light with wide, spot, red, and UV modes
13-inch inflatable dive buoy with a 12 by 11-inch scuba diving flag surface marker
Black Mares Dragon Scuba Diving BCD
Flexible Lightweight Portable Tripod for Projector DSLR Cameras and Go Pro
Canon Macro Lens EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM – non Image Stabilised
Bare 7mm thick elastek dry suit hood
If you’re not quite ready for the expense of big lights, this little video light goes perfectly with any GoPro setup
Sigma MC-11 mount converter lens adapter (Sigma EF-Mount lens to sony E cameras). Essential photo kit contains Altura photo rapid-fire wrist strap, small lens pouch, cleaning kit, and microfiber lens cleaning cloth.
Bare SB System Mens Full Under-layer
SHOOT 6″ Underwater Dome Port for GoPro Hero 6/Hero 5/Hero(2018) Black Camera Diving Lens Hood Housing Photography with Waterproof Case Accessories
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom Lens for Canon Digital DSLR Camera + 32GB Memory Card + Photo4Less Cleaning Cloth.
Scuba diving 4ft neon yellow surface marker signal tube with “Diver Below” print
Ikelite TTL dual flash sync cord attaches two strobe’s to the underwater camera housing.
Ikelite underwater macro lens casing is comprised of an acetyl body with glass front and can hold lenses of 4.37 diameter x 3 inches (111 x 76 mm)
Ikelite photography strobe DS161 with NiMH rechargeable battery pack